Gender is a characteristic of society. Although we’ve come a very long way from the gender inequalities of the pre-feminist movement, there are still gender socialization norms and differences. From a very young age girls and boys are taught how to behave in gender appropriate ways. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s theory of gender socialization furthers and maintains gender inequality. The media has helped expose the gender norms in society.
Women are portrayed as “oversexed.” There are obvious physical differences between men and women; however men and women have long been assigned roles which determine the ways in which they should sit, stand, carry themselves and do just about everything in society. Robin Thicke’s video was very controversial when it came out. It expresses how sexuality is displayed differently between men and women. The women are literally parading around the men, half naked and carrying random objects around with them. The video takes on the role of the male gaze, focusing on the women’s movements. In comparison, the men are fully clothed and remain in control throughout the video. The video implies that a women should be sexy and provocative, in order to allure the men.
The meaning of the hit song had to be clarified by Robin Thicke, he said it was not a song about rape, but about blurring the lines between men and women and how they’re the same, and about the blurred lines between a good girl and bad girl. His own interpretation of the lyrics is ignorant. The video does the complete opposite; it completely exposes the differences between women and men. After watching the parody, I couldn’t help but laugh. The men are doing the exact same thing the women did in the video; however it looks silly and unnatural when the men do it. The comical response people have from the video is because of the assigned gender socialization roles. Gender norms are so heavily reinforced and institutionalized, that seeing the roles of men and women switched is amusing. I highly recommend everyone to watch the female version of Blurred Lines first, and then the parody. The gender differences and portrayals will be crystal clear!
Blurred Lines Parody
Today’s class discussion about status immediately got me thinking about status in modern America. I believe the video played in class did a great job of describing American’s and their competitive strive to pass somebody who is a couple steps ahead of oneself in the social ladder. Unwillingly, we become envious of those who seem to have a little more than us.
The idea of how people with money who typically inherit their money, look down at people who have to work for it, is perfectly shown in one of my all time favorite books and movie: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The status of people in The Great Gatsby is divided between the “New money” and “Old money” or the “West Egg” and “East Egg.” Fitzgerald does a great job in explaining Weber’s theory of status. Although Gatsby is filthy rich and has wealth, he still does not status in society. Nobody knows where his money came from, and a humble background is not much appreciated. He struggles and competes with Tom Buchanan, who comes from a socially solid family, and has immense status, although he has not really done anything to acquire his money. In the end, Daisy ends up choosing Tom because he has status and class unlike Gatsby. Gatsby may be wealthy, but by the standards of society, he is not worthy. Although Daisy actually loves Gatsby, choosing him over Tom would be a social downgrade for Daisy. This directly correlates with Weber’s theory of how although someone may be wealthy, they still do not have social status.
Whether we are talking about the 20th century, or the 21st century, Weber’s theory still applies. Acquiring wealth is magnificent, but status is what holds the key to satisfaction. This is why Americans are so obsessed with social status. In the case of Gatsby, he lost the girl of his dreams because of his status. Whether we realize it or not status affects the lives of everybody everyday. We try to achieve high social status as a means to an end.
Since Durkheim was a functionalist, he believed everything that existed had a purpose. Crime is normal according to Durkheim and I completely agree. As we mentioned in class, there is no society in which crime does not exist. There is no such thing as a perfect Utopian society. In one way or another crime is always present. Crime functions to point out what is accepted and not accepted in a society, which then introduces laws. Laws serve to mark the boundaries people should not transcend. I think Durkheims theory is so important because years later we still recognize crime, we see it every day in the media and all around us. Laws shape our everyday lives. A great example of how crime varies in different societies is the fact that some cultures allow men to have more than one wife, however in the United States that is seen as a crime, with the punishment of divorce. Two different societies have two very different views on the idea of marriage.
If Durkheim were alive today I think he’d be intrigued by crime, specifically how it brings society together. For example, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was devastating, it shocked the entire nation. The media, and social networks spread the news instantly. A terrible crime had been committed, and the nation remained unified. My Facebook feed was overflowed with pictures of the crime scene and prayer statuses. Although people did not personally know the families of the victims, they prayed for them and every person understood the depth and seriousness of the crime. Similar to Durkheim’s findings of how war unifies people, I believe crime does too. Two terrible events result in the unification of society. This is interesting because it is pure Durkheim, people need to feel a part of something, and supporting a cause definitely unifies societies.
Finally, the last question I was left with was what a society would be like without crime? But then I realized I can’t even picture this because crime is such a normality is society that it is hard to imagine one without it.
Durkheim and Marx both held different opinions about Capitalism, specifically the modern division of labor. Marx was a conflict theorist and argued that the division of labor resulted in alienation, he mainly focused on the social inequalities between social groups. On the other hand, Durkheim claimed that the division of labor was not necessarily bad for the individual or society. Unlike Marx who claimed economic specialization produced alienation, Durkheim who was a functionalist, believed the division of labor was beneficial for society because it increases the worker’s skill and created a feeling of solidarity between people. He claimed the division of labor creates a certain balance and unites social systems, essentially making them more efficient. Although Marx and Durkheim were essentially basing their theories from the 19th century and the rise of industrialization, the division of labor theory can still be applied in today’s society.
Durkheim disagrees with Marx on alienation, he believes only in rare circumstances do people actually become aliented. In todays society someone who agrees with Durkheim would argue that the worker who works in retail is constantly interacting with other people, whether it is other workers or the customers. Although their task is to sell or restock, they understand that they are part of a bigger picture, they are helping economy, therefore the worker remains consious of their humanity. The worker sees they are part of a whole, as Durkheim says “he knows that his activity has a meaning.”
Based on the two arguments, I would agree with both. I believe workers do tend to get alienated from their work, for example my friends who work in retail always complain about how much they dislike their job. Similar to the workers becoming “the machine,” in todays society workers become “the dummies” in order to sell and make their wage or commission. Along the lines of Marx’s theory, employees work out of necessity, therefore they grow more and more resentful of their jobs. However I don’t believe alienation is the correct term, not every worker hates their job and my friends certainly do not feel isolated from their jobs. In other words I believe a better word for alienation is people feeling occasional discontent in their jobs. For example I am a waitress and bar tender, my hourly wage is very low because I get tips. There are days where I feel extremely discontent, days where it’s not busy, or days when customers are cheap; however, there are days where I have my regular customers or even new ones who always brighten up my day. Along the lines of Durkheim’s theory, I believe economic specialization is not necessarily bad, because I find that since I’ve been specializing in my job for so long, I am actually really good at it. But then again I am a bit biased, because I have great relationships with my boss and co-workers and actually enjoy my job.
Overall, I believe a combination of both theories is essentially the most accurate in today’s society. Although I just make drinks and serve them, I do not feel alienated from my job. Although my friends simply engage people to buy or work at the cash register, they do not necessarily feel alienated, especially in today’s society. However there are cases where people MUST work and do resent their jobs.
The videos “Wealth Inequality in America” and “Land of the Free, Home of the Poor” show the unequal distribution of money in the United States. I always understood there was a gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% however I did not realize it was such a wide gap. I would have fallen in the category of what people “think” it is. The “actual” middle class closely represents what we think “poor” distribution is. Marx’s ideas of a ruling class owning the means of production and a subordinate class that lacks the means of production and the ability to sustain itself without selling its labor power to the ruling class lives on. The statistics are especially surprising, it is jaw dropping to see that 1% of America has 40% of all the nations wealth, and the top 20% holds 84% of wealth! This adds to Marx’s theory of capitalism, we can clearly see how capitalism produces inequalities. A complete equal society in a capitalist nation is unrealistic, however the reality behind the inequalities should produce alarming attention.
The video makes you question the reality and the American Dream. Can we still call America the land of opportunity? The first thing that comes to mind is that the people at the bottom of the social triangle are resistant to work and the people at the top are the ones who have worked hard to reach their wealth. However, the video shows how this is not the case, its unlikely that the CEO is working 380x harder than the average worker. After learning the reality it is amusing to see everyone so confident about what they think the distribution is. Naturally we don’t notice these inequalities on an everyday basis, it seems as if everyone is more or less equal considering the packed malls and designer clothing many people have. The truth of the matter is the inequalities are present and corporate profits continue to grow and the inequalities continue to grow with them.
After learning this information, one thing I wondered is how to overcome this class struggle and reduce the differences and inequalities.